Dirty Projectors take minds off midterms at Zebulon

Dirty Projectors Zebulon 2018 mainbar

Before the Dirty Projectors even took the stage, there was an intense energy among the crowd. It was, after all, the night of the midterm elections. Coming right off of anxiously refreshing results all day, it was an enormous relief to feel any sort of escape, but being able to see Dirty Projectors was a particular treat.

As soon as they started playing, the show felt unusually intimate. Zebulon is a small-ish space to begin with, and the stage boasted no decorations, but was solely crowded from trying to fit all six of Dirty Projectors’ band members and their instruments. A single red light shone on lead singer and guitarist David Longstreth, while the rest of the band was cloaked in blue light, a minimalist nod to the cover art for their latest album, Lamp Lit Prose.

This atmosphere almost made the show feel like it could have been performed in a friend’s basement, which lent itself to more experimentation during their songs. They started off with their hit, “Break-Thru,” to warm up the crowd, and definitely took more risks to with their funkier songs, like “I Feel Energy.”

Despite their inclination to experiment for this smaller show, Longstreth still always maintained a certain stoicness for every song. Of course, considering the complicated vocal harmonies and chord progressions, especially when playing “Right Now,” I’d need to stay pretty focused, too.

Halfway through the set, Longstreth jokingly asked the audience, “What’d you guys do today?” slowing relieving some election day tension. He proceeded to share how he just bought the guitar he was playing earlier that day– he had picked it up from a guy in a Vons parking lot. A risky move for any musician, but also maybe worth it for the story.

Songs like “Cool Your Heart” were excellent in that they allowed for vocalist Felicia Douglass to really shine and show off what makes this band so great: the ability to constantly surprise you with new vocal variations..

As the set continued, the audience didn’t seem to be dancing all that much. Maybe it was due to the nature of the songs they chose to play, or because of their jammier, more drawn out performance. Still, the show was a much needed relief from the world outside of Zebulon, and it was a pleasure to see such talented vocalists put a new spin on some older favorites.

Words by Julia Edelman
Photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold